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Deed versus word -- How not to be 'revolutionary'

by Dave Riley
A complication of (far) left politics is that one person's "revolution" is another's Utopia. Marx did not write a three volume magnum opus and call it Das Sozialismus (-- rather than Das Kapital). Just because a section of the far left waxes on about socialism (or anything Marxist for that matter) it doesn't follow that they aren't ruled by Idealism.
Idealism is the philosophical theory that maintains that the ultimate nature of reality is based on mind or ideas. It holds that the so-called external or "real world" is inseparable from mind, consciousness, or perception.
As Marx could have said in the Theses on Fuerbach, "socialists have interpreted the world in various ways -- the real challenge is to change it."

Amongst its many characterisations of the revolutionary party, the DSP deployed at one occasion this phrase which I think is thoroughly pithy and salient:"The revolutionary party returns to the attack again and again."

That I suggest is the real marker, the only real concrete measure of what such a formation does or should do. Unless you want to only build a propaganda group as many Trotskyist sects blithely advocate, I think you need to be considerate that being revolutionary is not judged solely by what you say you are -- or, for that matter, what you say you want.

That's not very , um...materialistic. As Trotsky reminded us, " We Marxists believe that in the beginning was the DEED, the WORD followed as its phonetic shadow."

Whether there should be more advocacy for socialism in the pages of whatever, or more of the exploring Marx type exercises, may be true of anything but that's not and never can be the whole story. In fact it can be deployed as a massive distraction from concretely what is to be done? That's the history of so much of the Trotskyisms isn't it? It's so much easier to talk up a revolution rather than actually put in the very hard yards doing it.

Purity of program. Rigid, "river of blood" divides and shibboleths. In fact the whole far left has had 40 years cleansing itself in such politics.

As I think was said at one stage by Jim Percy, the real judgement of a party is going to be of what you do rather than what you say. The problem with the far left is that it is caught up in this (unfortunately still very shallow) dialogue -- of the saying rather than the doing, let alone the collective doing.

I think if you look offshore -- to the history of Vietnam,to Cuba, to Venezuela, et al -- the struggle was marked not by a few relentless "socialist' catchphrases but by the sort of politics Lenin outlined in Left Wing Communism's articulate second chapter.
Sampler:The first questions to arise are: how is the discipline of the proletariat’s revolutionary party maintained? How is it tested? How is it reinforced? First, by the class-consciousness of the proletarian vanguard and by its devotion to the revolution, by its tenacity, self-sacrifice and heroism. Second, by its ability to link up, maintain the closest contact, and—if you wish—merge, in certain measure, with the broadest masses of the working people—primarily with the proletariat,but also with the non-proletarian masses of working people. Third, by the correctness of the political leadership exercised by this vanguard, by the correctness of its political strategy and tactics, provided the broad masses have seen, from their own experience, that they are correct. Without these conditions, discipline in a revolutionary party really capable of being the party of the advanced class, whose mission it is to overthrow the bourgeoisie and transform the whole of society, cannot be achieved. Without these conditions, all attempts to establish discipline inevitably fall flat and end up in phrasemongering and clowning. On the other hand, these conditions cannot emerge at once. They are created only by prolonged effort and hard-won experience. Their creation is facilitated by a correct revolutionary theory, which, in its turn, is not a dogma, but assumes final shape only in close connection with the practical activity of a truly mass and truly revolutionary movement.

Of course off-shore also references primarily the anti-imperialist struggle but even when you look to Venezuela the conscious socialist element kicks in, as Trotsky pointed out, as a " phonetic shadow" of the struggles that have occurred and the gains won.

To not see that is to promote a very formulaic and shallow view of politics and advocacy.

Let's assume, for arguments sake, that journals like Green Left Weekly are less Marxian and less promoting of socialism than they could be. Leaving aside the complication that some supposed threshold apparently exists where a sufficiency of such propaganda is seeded before you gain accreditation -- just enough for an org to pass muster as revolutionaries -- what's supposed to be the consequences of a more revolutionary content?

If we want to use that as our one marker and go with the judgment being made -- then the readers of Green Left Weekly were supposedly more prone to 'socialist consciousness' in the past (at least before the supposed cut off year of 2005 when the Socialist Alliance supposedly warped its advocacy) than they are today. But where's the proof that that was indeed the case? In fact,we can take this a step further and say that the journal that preceded Green Left, the old Direct Action, fitted that bill when GLW does not.

DA being, of course, much more 'socialist' than GLW ever was.

On the same logic, then people are better off reading the the Socialist Alternative journal or the Solidarity one because that's what they'll get.

But I assume that we aren't fools or psychotics and we know that at this moment of historical time any discussion about 'socialism' is best served by a discussion about Venezuela. That's the case isn't it? You'll note in contrast that these other outfits don't have that particular DEED to reference and consequently remain in a sort of soft Utopian broken record mode.It's catchphrase politics with passionate references to 1917.

You only have to read their stuff to pick up on the contrast -- their socialisms , compared to ours in real time.

So in a very real sense even the word "socialism" is being redefined by these contemporary struggles and we recognise, leastways I hope we do, that for good or ill ( whether you want to be or not) o r future advocacy is riding on the unfolding events in Latin America.
[The irony is that the Australian Communist Party took off in the forties in part because "battling Russia" was rolling back the Nazi hordes -- not because they had a patented vision of socialism.In the decade before that, the party grew because of its industrial true grit.]
So is it wrong to talk up the Bolivarian process as a major component of your revolutionary advocacy?

Apparently if you don't do 'enough' of the other stuff, it is. And that 'neglect' supposedly makes a world of difference to how revolutionary you are supposed to be.

Our general political problem is that while there seems to be a renewal in Marxism there is a crisis in our politics. I think that's evident, especially in the Western World.

And there is no way of resolving this by dint of polemics alone. A section on the far left would have it that there's a process of "liquidationism" is eating at the innards of our Marxian core.

OK -- if thats' supposedly the case the onus is on them to prove it! With Chris Slee's very useful essay on Liquidationism as a references , prove that this is actually happening not just here but elsewhere in other countries on other continents in the context of other party building experiences. And when you begin this exercise tell us all what are the material (and ideological) forces driving this penchant to liquidate.

It's not 1914. It's not post May June in France. It's no longer 1950 and the Cold War...

If a section of the far left is 'liquidating' its politics-- here as elsewhere in the context of the advances in Latin America -- by engaging in these new anticapitalist party projects, what's supposedly driving it?

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